It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
Can you believe that it’s August already?! Wow, wow, wow. Or as a friend used to say, damn, damn, damn!
Also, August 1 was National Sisters Day, so I want to begin by honoring all the sisters out there. I have four wonderful brothers, but no sisters, and it’s something I always wanted growing up. To me, sisters always seemed to have a built-in best friend. I know that’s a simplistic view, but nonetheless that’s how I felt. That’s why I was so glad when I had two daughters. I was happy they would have each other to navigate the twists and turns of life.
I know there were many times along the way, especially when they were younger, when neither of them liked having a sister so close in age. But today, thank God, my girls are super close. They are each other’s best friend. It doesn’t mean that they see eye-to-eye on everything and everyone (and I’ve learned along the way to not get in between them), but they are committed to each other. They are protective of each other and they are there for each other in good times and tough times. So in honor of National Sisters Day, I asked them to answer some questions about their journey through sisterhood. If you have a sister, I hope their journey might help inspire yours!
August 1 is also a big day for me because it’s the start of my annual August break. This is the time when I take a break from writing my weekly Sunday column and all the other things that I do in my professional life. I must say I’ve really been looking forward to this month for all sorts of reasons. I also know that I’m blessed to be able to step back from the day to day for a bit.
I believe all of us benefit from taking a break. If we have young kids, we benefit from someone stepping in to help us take care of them. If we care for elderly parents, we need a break because caregiving is around the clock work and worry. Even if we go to jobs that we love, it’s important to be able to rest our minds and bodies so we can regroup for the road ahead.
Giving yourself a “break” or withdrawing “from the intensity of one’s life” was very much in the news this week. Simone Biles stunned the Olympic world when she cited mental health as her reason for withdrawing from the competition so far. Tennis star Naomi Osaka also stunned not too long ago when she withdrew from the French Open citing her mental health. These athletes and others like Michael Phelps and Kevin Love have been out on the frontlines talking about the importance of mental health for quite some time, but I must say that some of the reaction Biles received really surprised me. It showed me that we all have a lot more work to do when it comes to understanding people’s mental health journeys.
No one knows better than you what’s going on inside you. I’ve never had the “twisties” like Biles, and I’ve never experienced the “yips” either (yes, both are very real things). But I have spent years trying to tame my own inner critic who at times has left me terrified, deeply doubtful, scared, and off-kilter. I guess you could say that’s my own version of the “twisties.” I have no doubt that you have your own version as well.
A few years ago, I started taking August off because I felt the need to step back. I felt overwhelmed. I was embarrassed to take the time off at first, because before then I believed that you must power through your work to the point of exhaustion. You endure no matter what. Self-care and taking a mental health break were never discussed in my family growing up, but I’ve come to realize that that line of thinking and working is destructive to your mind, body, mood, and overall well-being.
Today, talk of mental well-being is front and center. Yet when someone who we perceive to be unshakable shakes, we pounce. We debate and weigh in on the matter, even though none of us is in their head.
Each and every one of us has a different mind, and each and every one of us has a different relationship with our mind. We each have a different breaking point as well. That’s why each and every one of us must display what I call “Mind-Style leadership.” (This is a key pillar of our new brain-wellness company MOSH.) It’s up to us to lead ourselves forward. It’s up to us to be cognizant of not just our physical well-being, but of our mental well-being as well.
Each and every one of us must learn what environment is healthy for us, what pace works for us, what kind of relationships empower us, what type of voice lands with us, and what daily rituals we need to keep ourselves steady and stable. Those of us who run a business must be cognizant of this for those who are on our teams as well. We must be aware of the challenges people are dealing with and do our best to be empathic and forward thinking. We must recognize the importance of paid sick leave, paid time off, and paid family leave. People need time to care for themselves and their families. That’s why Mind-Style leadership incorporates the heart and the mind. It values both.
Each of us has experienced our own traumas, and those traumas can be activated years later out of the blue in a high-stress situation. That’s the God’s honest truth. I don’t know Simone Biles personally, but I know she is an extraordinary champion. I know she has dedicated her life to being the best in the world, which she is. I know she has brought joy and pride to every person who has watched her perform and cheered her on. She is an extraordinary Olympic champion, and she always will be. That’s true regardless of whether she competes this week or even if she never competes again. She is a human being, as we all are.
Each of us must decide if and when we need to withdraw and take a break. This past year-and-a-half wreaked havoc on just about everyone. Emotions are high, people feel vulnerable, and everyone is trying to make sense of experiences that make no sense (watch the Capitol police officers’ testimony below).
Very few of us will ever experience the pressure of the Olympics. Very few of us will have to step in like the Capitol police officers did to defend our nation’s Capitol. Very few of us know what it’s like to live your life 24/7 on the public stage. Perhaps we might do ourselves and others a favor by simply cutting each other a break. What if we gave each other the benefit of the doubt? What if we recognized that this past year-and-a-half has surfaced all kinds of things in us? It’s revealed all sorts of pain and fears to people of all ages. What if we allowed ourselves to believe that we are all experiencing our own version of the "twisties"? Would you feel relieved to know you are not alone with your emotions and your inner critic? I know I would.
What if we simply saw Simone Biles’ withdrawal as an opportunity for us to talk about what we want to withdraw from or take a break from? What if instead of judging a withdrawal as a form of weakness, we viewed it as sign of strength, a sign of knowing yourself well enough that you can remove yourself for a bit and return in a better place? Doing that will definitely make it easier for others to take care of themselves moving forward. Dr. Frank Lipman puts this beautifully into focus for us this week. He believes we need to reframe how we view taking breaks. By doing this, we take better care of not only ourselves but of humanity. (He also gives us tips for the different types of breaks we can all take, whether we have weeks or minutes to dedicate to this.) Our friend Jennifer Freed, who just completed her own digital detox, also writes about taking a break.
And sometimes the breaks we take are not of our choosing. This past year, millions withdrew from jobs that no longer worked for them, while millions of others lost their jobs. Roger Weissberg—a giant in the social and emotional learning space—writes so movingly about coming face to face with his own mortality. He imparts lessons that we can all use in the here and now.
So try to give yourself a break this month. I know I need one. I know in my own way I want to withdraw at times. I want to live life without being tied to my digital devices, and without having to work as hard as I do 24/7, 365. Like Simone Biles, I want to live life on my own terms. I don’t expect everyone to understand, but we all benefit when people at least try to. After all, we are living life in real time every day. It’s a full-time job and it’s on the job training.
So tread gently—with yourself and everyone else as well. I believe doing so will lead us all to a better place. Thank you, and God willing I’ll see you in September.
P.S. One last thing before I go …
I was so excited by the overwhelming positive response from the news I shared in last week's Sunday Paper about our new mission-driven brain health and wellness company launching next month! It was so inspiring and encouraging to hear and read your comments.
So… allow us to officially introduce you to MOSH—the protein bar made for your brain.
Your mind. Our mission. It's nutritious, delicious, and mission-driven to help support gender-based Alzheimer's research at the Women's Alzheimer's Movement.
As a token of our appreciation, we want you to be the first to see what we've been working on and invite you to enter our Year Supply Giveaway. Click ENTER TO WIN to sign up!
Dear God, please allow me to give myself the space I need to pause. Empower me to know when I need rest, to know when I need a break, and to be courageous enough to take it, no matter what anyone else thinks. Amen.
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